Friday, January 28, 2011

J & K Do Portland Food Carts: Month 1

The phenomenon of Portland's ever-expanding world of food cart cuisine is not new news. Indeed, there is an incredibly in-depth blog/website at; a number of reviews and articles in fancy schmancy places like Sunset (which call them "mobile gourmet kitchens") and Gourmet (our street-food culture "may soon be rivaling the hawker centers of Singapore"!); many of the more popular or well-organized carts have their own websites; and there is even a book now, entitled Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution. In other words, I realize I am not adding much to the world of the internets by discussing them; in other news, oh well.

Kathy and I have felt like infinitely un-cool Portlanders for awhile now in our lack of knowledge about food carts, which is mainly due to 1) our laziness when it comes to trying new places to eat, and 2) most of the carts are cash only, and who ever has cash on them? Not us, that's for sure. However, one of our resolutions for the last full year we may be spending in Portland is to try to hit up at least one new cart a month, so get ready for me documenting our culinary adventures on here for posterity. I know you're all pumped. I am!

Of course, to back up for a second, for those who DON'T live here and DON'T hear people talk about food carts constantly, here's the basic scoop: the main food carts started downtown, turning a few different blocks of what were once bland parking lots into bustling lunch-hour hot spots full of international flavors. The food cart craziness has henceforth expanded into the East Side and other neighborhoods of the city, often in groupings which are referred to as "pods." Really, in an economy such as this, for those crazy young entrepreneurs out there, starting your own food cart in Portland is one of the easiest and most successful (relatively of course) ventures one can currently dive into. In fact, there are so many popping up everywhere nowadays that I've read articles in the Oregonian questioning whether we have reached our food cart "saturation point" (to which I say, pshaw!) and the city council is pondering stricter regulations for the carts (to which I suspect many Portlanders would say, "Down with the man, man!").

We started this month at the pod closest to us at SE 50th and Division, A La Carts.

My Choice: I opted for some cajun cookin' at the classily titled Bayou Fixins', and chose the awesomely named Smack and Cheese, pictured above (with cornbread!). Essentially, slightly spicy homemade mac n' cheese with sausage and some peppers--and they really didn't skimp on the sausage, which was the best part. I have to say I think my cart was one of the more unique ones in the pod--although I passed, you could get alligator! Just think of how much fossil fuels were spent to transfer THAT to the Northwest!

Kathy's Choice: Since it's hard to say no to thai food, Kathy got something from Run Chicken Run, which definitely won for cutest cart in the pod. Like seriously--cute. She got something involving basil and chicken and noodles or something or other, which she said was good (she unfortunately is currently not home for more specifics on this; dock me one for journalistic integrity). We also got quite tasty thai iced tea from them--seemingly always a winning choice, but I have had ones which were slightly too sweet--and the workers definitely won the award for friendliness/best service.

What we'd like to eat if we went back: some fondue (yes, there's a fondue cart!); a pulled pork sandwich from Jazzy's Barbecue; Southwestern Pizza Company; something German from Van Schnitzel, yah; and a sandwich from Om Nom Nom (which wins for best cart name). It is already clear that this whole plethora-of-choices aspect of food carts is going to be exceedingly difficult for us.

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, I'm waiting for your food cart skit. I already know it'll be good.


  1. mine was SO GOOD! i could eat it again...right now. and it was rice, not noodles! <3<3<3

  2. also, i like how you said "we got thai iced tea" as if we both got one. nope. i got a thai iced tea, asked you if you wanted one, you said no. and then you drank all of mine. :'(:'(:'( you finally got me back for drinking that whole drink at spices II.

  3. I wish we lived somewhere where they had cool things like this :(

  4. Did you ever watch The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network? Because (1) you would like it and (2) if Om Nom Nom is anything like Nom Nom Truck, which was on the show, then they sell delicious Vietnamese sandwiches and you should have some.